Easy as 1-2-3-4: a Rye Berliner Weiss

Last summer I prepared a fantastic sour-mashed Berliner Weiss. It was so good that I swore I’d brew at least 2 batches of it this summer, so its time to get going. But with a lot of changes. The last Berliner Weiss was as basic as you can get – 1:1 barley:wheat, sour mashed, and fermented with 1056. This year that is all going to change.

A big part of this change was motivated by a Berliner Weiss brewed by Justin, a fellow brewer in the London Homebrewers Guild. He used a bit of rye in his Berliner Weiss, and it worked incredibly well; the dry/crisp character of the rye fit in perfectly well with the sourness & dryness of the Berliner Weiss. The second big change I am making is the use of multiple yeast/bacterial cultures; instead of getting my lacto from a handful of uncrushed malt, I’m using an innoculum of lacto from my yeast bank (#91, Lactobacillus buchneri). I am doing this in the hope of avoiding some of the harsher bacterial tones I got last summer (likely from enterobacteria) – they eventually faded, but were unpleasant while they persisted. After boiling, I will be fermenting with a mix of Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces (yeast bank #111, 133 & 134) ; all three strains having been isolated from a commercial Berliner Weiss.

This unusual approach is also meant to deal with another issue – between starting the yeast cultures and the planned brew day – Saturday – SWIMBO and I decided to go camping. I’m hoping that the pitching of ~50ml of active lacto culture Tuesday night will sour things enough to finish the brew on Thursday…I’m hoping it will work, but either way this is the plan.

Why 1-2-3-4 you ask?  Its easy – 1:2:3 is the rye:wheat:pilsner malt ratio of the beer, and it took 4 microorganisms to ferment it out!

Recipe & Brewing Notes Below the Fold…

Sour Mashing

The recipe and brewing process is a little different for a sour-mashed beer. Rather than mash and sparge like you normally do, you instead do a thick mash (2.2L/kg; roughly 1pt/lb). Once mashed, the mash is allowed to cool to ~40C and it is then inoculated with the bacteria; usually by throwing in some uncrushed malt (which is covered in lacto), or in this case, by pitching a starter of Lactobacillus.  The mash tun is then insulated and hot water additions used to maintain the temperature at 37C – 40C for a period of 2-4 days. These hot water additions are why we use a thin mash – we don’t want to add more water than the amount of sparge water we would use.
Every couple of days you taste the mash (hold your nose – it smells awful), and once sufficiently soured, we sparge with the remaining sparge water, boil briefly (some recipes not-at-all), and ferment with our yeasts. Of course, I’m on the clock this time so I won’t be tasting and will be just hoping for the best in the time I have.

The advantage to a sour mash over a conventional sour ferment are two-fold; firstly, the degree of souring is controllable and can be dialed-in to give exactly the degree of sourness desired. Secondly, it is faster; a sour-mashed Berliner Weiss can be in a keg in 10 days; a sour-fermented Berliner Weiss usually takes a month or more.

This, of course, comes with a cost. While faster and more controlled, the sourness of a sour mash is almost entirely lactic acid, as such the resulting beer will be less complex than a beer soured during the ferment. Sour-ferments can produce varying amounts of acetic and lactic acid, other rarer acids and acid-esters. In addition, there is the risk of getting a hefty growth of a heterofermentative lacto that produces  a lot of beuteric acid – producing an unpleasant, buttery beer.

The Recipe

Easy as 1-2-3: Rye Berliner Weiss
Berliner Weiss
Type: All GrainDate: 22 Apr 2014
Batch Size (fermenter): 23.00 lBoil Size: 27.89 l
Boil Time: 15 min
1.50 kgPilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM)Grain147.2 %
1.00 kgWheat Malt, Pale (2.0 SRM)Grain231.4 %
0.50 kgRye Malt  (3.7 SRM)Grain315.7 %
0.18 kgSucrose, if neededSugar45.7 %
25.00 gHallertauer [4.80 %] – Boil 15.0 minHop57.1 IBUs
1.0 pkgBerlin Yeast I (LYB111)Yeast6
1.0 pkgBerliner Brett I (LYB133)Yeast7
1.0 pkgBerliner Brett II (LYB134)Yeast8
1.0 pkgLactobacillus (Wyeast Labs #5335)Yeast9
Beer Profile
Est OG: 1.032 SGMeasured Original Gravity: 1.030 SG
Est Alcohol by Vol: 3.5 %Bitterness: 7.1 IBUs
Est Color: 2.6 SRM
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch SpargeTotal Grain Weight: 3.18 kg
Sparge Water: 24.30 lGrain Temperature: 22.2 C
Sparge Temperature: 75.6 CTun Temperature: 22.2 C
Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUEMash PH: 5.20
Mash Steps
NameDescriptionStep TemperatureStep Time
Mash InAdd 6.85 l of water at 72.7 C64.4 C75 min
Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 24L at 75.6 C water

Mash Notes: A portion of the sparge water should be added, boiling, to raise mash temp to sparge temp before starting sparge.
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonation Type: KegVolumes of CO2: 2.3
1) Sour mash 3-4 days using cultured Lactobacillus (#91)
2) Primary ferment with mix of Berlinerweiss yeast (#111) and Brett (#108)-table sugar is optional; used to dry out beer
Created with BeerSmith

Brewing Notes

  1. The sour mash appears to have worked well – at the 24 hour mark there was a notable lactic aroma and modest lactic character; the top of the wort was covered in a film similar to what lacto creates in the fermenter. I added ~1.5L of boiling water to raise the temperature above 37C. By brew day (~46 hours post-lacto addition) the lactic character was much stronger; roughly where my memory placed the acidity of the last batch. Interestingly, the aroma and flavour was much cleaner than the classical sour-mash started with a handful of grain.
  2. Forgot to add rice hulls. Never forget rice hulls with a  brew like this.
  3. Ended up with lightly more volume at a slightly lower gravity than expected

3 thoughts on “Easy as 1-2-3-4: a Rye Berliner Weiss

  • April 25, 2014 at 11:41 PM

    I'm excited to see how this turns out – I haven't actually had a chance to try those Berliner bretts out yet. The beer they're from had a powerful lemony funk that should work nicely with the rye and wheat.


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